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Identity Theft is Top Consumer Fraud Complaint

WASHINGTON - Identity theft was the most common type of U.S. consumer fraud complaint in 2001, according to federal statistics released today, Reuters reports.

Hijacking of personal information for fraud or theft made up 42 percent of the 204,000 fraud complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last year, according to Reuters. The statistics coincide with what some experts say is increasing incidence of identity theft as the Internet makes personal information more readily accessible.

The culprits of identity theft are known to crack Internet databases, intercept mail or bluff their way past bank tellers and credit bureaus in an attempt to gather Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and other confidential personal information.

Then they use the personal data to apply for credit cards or bank loans, set up cell phone service or pass bad checks under someone else's name.

Other fraud crimes that made the list include Internet auctions, which accounted for 10 percent of consumer gripes; Internet services, at 7 percent; and shop-at-home and catalog offers, which made up 6 percent of the database.
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